Occasionally I think I”m bloody normal. And then I realise that it’s Monday, I just finished a bottle of wine by myself, wrote ANOTHER post about the tube, had an imaginary conversation in which my best friends extrapolated all my worst qualities, and then fantasised about my latest crush falling for me only after I get hurt somehow and they have to rescue me.
Okay, so maybe that’s way to much info, but at the same time, it’s (hopefully) an example of ‘the crazy’ under control. One of my greatest fears, however, is ‘the crazy’ out of control.
Cue background info…
In 2008 Laura* had a pretty wild breakdown, which resulted (in short) with her being banned from the SPCA, having a medication ‘contract’ to never again reduce meds without the approval of two medical professionals and a family member, and with me having a pretty insistent and irrepressible sense of responsibility, guilt, and failure about my lack of insight into the matter. Despite being arguably the closest person to Laura, living 5 minutes away, and seeing her about twice a week, I missed the signs that she hid from me.
The stupid thing is that I’d seen them before: non-compliance seems to have a fairly cyclical routine and I’d seen the effects of a chemical imbalance losing its wheels and axes, with bolts and nuts spilling all over the roadside only three years earlier when she suddenly dropped to the kitchen floor and lost the capacity for intelligible speech. I learnt many things that day, and in a moment of clarity and necessity I lost myself and became some removed, cool, calm, collected, ‘fixer’, who got this woman-turned-broken-child off the floor and back in the cockpit, if not quite piloting solo.
On both occasions, I didn’t understand at the time why she would have stopped her meds, and thought that it was mostly about the shame she felt at having to be ‘medicated’ to be a functioning and acceptable member of society. Not having experienced the dulling and numbing sensation of the highest daily dose of [xxx drugs], my constant argument was that a) as a mental health professional herself, she would never judge anyone for needing medical help, and b) would never judge an insulin-dependent diabetic for their reliance on drugs. The logic of this is, I still think, pretty flawless, but it doesn’t factor in the illogical feelings of a person who is a) suffering from an illness categorised by illogicalicity (wtf is the word for that?), and b) is used to having a LOT of feelings, and doesn’t want ALL those feelings, but it would still be nice to have SOME feelings please and thank you.
Take a DeLorean back to the beginning of 2000, when I was just 14 and a friend who we all knew was already in psychiatric care (and therefore supposedly taken care of by capable adults) showed me the words ‘kill me’ etched shallowly into her forearm with a classroom compass. It contrasted so with the beautiful blue skies of a February Friday and the invulnerable image she presented to the world that I stammered and worried and failed to act. On the following Monday I learnt the consequences of this mental stutter and attended her funeral that Thursday, listening to my unknowing mother lament that this poor girl’s friends knew and didn’t tell anyone.
I KNOW with my rational brain that the choice Rebecca made was not in any way my fault. And yet the sharp and heavy moments of that week are etched into my skin and nerve endings in the way usually reserved for firsts, and lasts and tragedies. I cross my fingers and hope that this suicide of a friend is the first and last tragedy of its particular brand in my life.
Fast forward to London 2012, and these two incidents infect me with fear for loved ones back home.
If Laura* hid her slow slide downwards from me when she was right there, how am I supposed to know she’s okay when she only has to hold it together for a skype date? It’s four years later, so perhaps the next episode is overdue, and she reassures me so much that it’s unsettling and obviously something that plays on her mind as well as mine – does this just mean she knows I’m paranoid about it, or does it mean it concerns her as well?
I know in my rational lobes that things are different and that in fact she’ll probably keep her shit together more because I’m far away and she knows I worry. But my irrational inner child’s shitting herself, huddling in the corner in case she has to come out of her hiding space and be mother and sister and keeper again.
Another friend is going through an extremely difficult time and reaching out for my help. I thank gawd that she does, and feel honoured that she trusts me enough to do so. But what if what I can give from here is not enough? What if I fail and someone has to ask me why I didn’t tell someone else, do something else?
I try to be rational and constructive about problems. Then I try to listen and understand without offering solutions. Then I try to get some bloody professionals and medications in the mix because I get scared, and because I grew up with therapists and crazy people, and crazy people who are therapists, so I know how great good drugs can be.
I’m not sure that ANY of this is helpful, and I know the one thing she needs from me, the one thing I can’t do, is just to be there.
*name has been changed for anonymity, but some of you will know who Laura is from the details, that’s fine, since you already know about ‘that time’ – just don’t out her here please. If you know why I’ve picked ‘Laura’, you are one of her true friends, and mine. In case anyone’s worried, I cleared this with both of the (living) people discussed here before posting. Rebecca, I cannot clear it with you, but I think you’d be okay with it.